Downfall of Young Goodman Brown

Topics: Young Goodman Brown, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Woman Pages: 5 (1826 words) Published: April 10, 2002
The Downfall Of Young Goodman Brown
Nathaniel Hawthorne was a descendant of Puritan immigrants who dedicated his life to writing. It was through his short story "Young Goodman Brown" that Hawthorne uses it to explain Young Goodman Brown's excessive pride. This excessive pride interferes with the relationship of his wife Faith and the community, which ultimately causes Young Goodman Brown's downfall.

"Young Goodman Brown" sets up his journey that his wife asks him to "pr'y thee, put off your journey until sunrise, and sleep in his own bed to-night" (Hawthorne 614). However, Goodman Brown tells Faith "of all nights in the year, this one night must tarry away from thee" (614). The first sign of excessive pride is when Goodman Brown leaves his loving wife and goes on the journey that he does not know what to expect when he told her he would "cling to her skirts and follow her to heaven" . Goodman Brown let his wife down because of his journey. This journey led him directly to the Devil who was the first person Goodman Brown met. Goodman Brown did not know this man was the Devil, therefore, he followed his every lead. The Devil leads Goodman Brown down a "dreary road" that made Goodman Brown skeptical. Goodman Brown was afraid a devilish Indian would be in the woods when all along the Devil was walking beside of him. Goodman Brown did not know this because he was so curious to see everything the journey had in store for him. However, the Devils journey was already working because Goodman Brown had left his newlywed wife to go with the Devil. Ironically, the Devil knew Goodman Brown was going on the journey because he showed up fifteen minutes late and brought it to his attention. Then, Goodman Brown lied on Faith and said she kept him back awhile (614). However, Faith physically kept him from being on time for his meeting with the Devil, but it was his faith in God that psychologically delayed his meeting.

On the other hand, Goodman Brown should have known something was wrong when the Devil greeted him with a snakelike staff. This staff was a sign of evil because of its reference in the Adam and Eve story. A snake is what led Adam and Eve to their destruction from the Tree of Knowledge, which is similar to Goodman Brown because they both were seeking an unknowing understanding amount of knowledge. Once Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge they were expelled from their paradise. Eventually, the Devil's staff will lead Goodman Brown to the Devil's ceremony, destroying his faith, and expelling him from his utopia.

However, Goodman Brown suspects something is wrong and no longer wants to continue his journey. But, the Devil is smart and will not let him quit so quickly. Goodman Brown proclaims he came from a "race of honest men and Christians" and that his father would have never gone on this journey. Needless to say, the Devil is quick to point out he was with his father and grandfather when they were flogging a woman or burning an Indian village (615). These acts were ironic because they were bad deeds done in good faith, but the Devil used them to convince Goodman Brown he did not come from "good Christians." This was a ploy to get Goodman Brown to lose his faith and follow the Devil.

Furthermore, Goodman Brown's first excuse to stop the journey was not convincing, so he tried again and the Devil pretended to buy it. Goodman Brown said he could not continue the journey because he did not want his wife Faith to come to any harm (616). The devil agreed he should turn back, but used the excuse against him. The Devil showed Goodman Brown the woman "who had taught his catechism in youth, and was still his moral and spiritual adviser" was on the journey (Hawthorne 616). This was ultimately the beginning of Goodman Brown's damaged faith. After the Devil and the woman talk, Goodman Brown continues to walk with the Devil in the disbelief of what he has just witnessed....

Cited: Crew, Frederick. The Sins of the Fathers. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966, 114.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. "Young Goodman Brown", The Story and Its Writer, 4th ed. Ed. Ann Charters. Boston: Bedford Books of St. Martin 's Press, 1995, 595-604.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. "Young Goodman Brown", The Norton Anthology, 5th ed. New York: Norton and Company, 1999, 613-622.
Walcutt, Charles Child. Seven Novelists in the American Naturalist Tradition. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1963, 341.
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